Dr. Phil Replaces Jack Trimarco with Polygraph Operator John Grogan, Whom Trimarco Called “a Fraud”

The tabloid television talk show Dr. Phil, which debuted in 2002, has long used polygraphs as a ratings gimmick, especially during Nielsen sweeps, a rating period that is especially important for advertising revenue. For years, the show’s primary polygraph operator was retired FBI special agent Jack Trimarco.

Jack Trimarco (1947-2018)

However, Trimarco died in 2018, and for some time after that, it seems the Dr. Phil show did not feature any polygraph examinations. That has changed.

On 29-30 October 2020, the first two days of Nielsen’s November sweeps, the Dr. Phil show ran a two-part episode featuring polygraph operator John Leo Grogan, whom show host Phil McGraw introduced as “one of the most respected polygraph examiners in the country.”

Polygraph Operator John Leo Grogan on Dr. Phil, 30 October 2020

That John Grogan is “one of the most respected polygraph examiners in the country” would have been a shock to Jack Trimarco. In a 7 March 2008 phone call to the Tom Leykis Show, a Los Angeles-based radio program on which Grogan was a guest, Trimarco denounced Grogan as a fraud. AntiPolygraph.org has transcribed that call:

Tom Leykis: Here’s Jack on the Tom Leykis show. Hello.

Jack Trimarco: Hello, this is Jack.

Leykis: I know. I just said that.

Trimarco: [muted laughter]. Well, Tom, I honestly, I haven’t been listening to your show but my, my phone has lit up. My name is Jack Trimarco. I’m a retired FBI agent. I’m former head of the polygraph unit for the FBI in Los Angeles for seven years, former inspector general for the Department of Energy’s polygraph program for two, currently chairman of the ethics committee for [the] California Association of Polygraph Examiners.

John Grogan is a fake. He is not a polygraph examiner. He is quite accurately known as the polygraph parasite. He’s been convicted of twenty-six counts of fraud and had his P.I. license pulled from him, and he simply became a world-known polygraph examiner. It’s all B.S. He never graduated from a polygraph school, and everyone knows him for what he is, and I can’t believe he has the things to go on a radio show, have people like me listen, and expect not to be disclosed.

Leykis: Wow!

John Grogan: I think Jack’s hair dye is getting to him. I have never been convicted of any such thing. What, what—

Trimarco: John, do you still have a P.I. license?

Grogan: Wow. Wow.

Trimarco: John, do you still have a P.I. license?

Grogan: No, but [it] has nothing to do with fraud. Jack—

Trimarco: You know what, that’s a lie, too.

Grogan: Oh, my God! Well, Jack—

Trimarco: Contact your lawyers and sue me.

Grogan: Jack, why don’t you bring in proof to Tom Leykis that I’ve been convicted of one count of fraud, let alone twenty-six.

Trimarco: Twenty-six counts of fraud.

Grogan: [whistles]

Trimarco: The state of California pulled your P.I. license, and you’re violating that by claiming to be a polygraph examiner. It’s complete fraud, John. You’re, you’re an embarrassment to the law enforcement community, and you’re an embarrassment to the polygraph—the real polygraph—examiners of the world. You’re nothing more than a fraud. And you’re about to get burned.

Grogan: Bring in your proof to Tom Leykis

Trimarco: I’ll bring in my proof to the D.A. in Ventura County on Tuesday morning, John. You perjured yourself. You swore under oath about things that you aren’t, and I’m going to get you convicted.

Grogan: Okay, Jack.

Leykis: Well, well, well. Where do you go from there. I’ll tell you what. We’ll take a break, and we’ll figure out where we go from there. You don’t want to go anywhere!

After the call, Grogan dismissed Trimarco as “just another jealous competitor.”

Trimarco was not alone in his criticism of Grogan. In 2007 and 2008, polygraph operator Ralph Hilliard, proprietor of the website PolygraphPlace.com, alleged a litany of wrongdoing by Grogan in a pair of articles respectively titled, “Is John Grogan a Polygraph Parasite?” and “John Grogan – Part II: Imposter? Yes! Swindler? Definitely! Polygraph Examiner? Not by any Stretch of the Imagination.”

Grogan subsequently filed what seems to have been an abortive lawsuit against Jack Trimarco, Ralph Hilliard, and the late Joseph Paolella, a former U.S. Secret Service polygraph operator from whom Grogan had received some polygraph training.

Jack Trimarco was not wrong when he called John Grogan a fraud. But the fact is that all polygraph operators are frauds. Polygraphy is a thoroughly discredited pseudoscience that is inherently biased against the truthful yet easy for liars to beat using simple, effective countermeasures that polygraph operators have no demonstrated ability to detect.

Showman Phillip Calvin McGraw

Phil McGraw, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, should be embarrassed and ashamed for misleading his audience about the validity of polygraphy, all for the sake of ratings.

Jack Trimarco on KNX 1070 News Radio, Los Angeles

On Tuesday, 10 April 2007, polygraph examiner Jack Trimarco was a guest on Los Angeles radio station KNX 1070’s “Money 101 with Bob McCormick” program. A half-hour, 27 mb MP3 podcast is available for download.

Mr. Trimarco uttered a glaring falsehood about human physiology that stands in need of correction. About seven minutes into the program, he states:

We know that when a person tells a lie their breathing changes in a predictable way. We know that their sweat glands innervate, and we know that their cardio changes, perhaps the blood pressure will go up and come back down in a timely manner.

The truth of the matter is that there is no known physiological reaction (or combination of reactions) uniquely associated with deception. Neither breathing, sweat gland activity, nor cardiovascular activity change in predictable ways when a person tells a lie. It is for this reason that polygraph “testing” is inherently unreliable.

Trimarco also repeated the falsehood that he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly in February of this year: that polygraph testing has been scientifically shown to have a 93% accuracy rate (with a qualified examiner). On the contrary, the consensus scientific opinion is that polygraphy has no scientific basis at all, let alone a proven accuracy rate in the 90th percentile.

Also appearing on the show was KNX traffic anchor Megan Reyes, who described her polygraph experience with the Los Angeles Police Department, with which she applied for employment about a year and a half ago. Her polygrapher accused her of deception regarding violent crime, drug usage, and drug dealing, though she maintains she told the complete truth and never did any of these things. When host Bob McCormick prompted Trimarco regarding what questions he would ask Ms. Reyes in order to assess the situation, he chose instead to expound upon the proper nomenclature and purpose of polygraph instrument attachments.

Mr. Trimarco also stated that the FBI conducts pre-employment polygraph examinations of applicants after a background investigation is completed. This policy is news to AntiPolygraph.org, and any information on it, such as when and why it was implemented, would be welcome. If you have relevant information, please leave a comment either here on the blog or on the message board, or send e-mail to info@antipolygraph.org.

Jack Trimarco Spins the Polygraph on The O’Reilly Factor

Jack Trimarco on The O’Reilly Factor

On Thursday, 22 February 2007, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly spoke with retired FBI polygraph operator Jack Trimarco, whom he had hired to administer a polygraph examination to Frederic von Anhalt (who ultimately backed out) regarding the latter’s claim to have fathered the infant daughter of the late Anna Nicole Smith. At the time of writing the video is still available on-line.

During the show, Trimarco made some serious misrepresentations regarding the polygraph. Asked about polygraph accuracy, Trimarco told O’Reilly that the polygraph is “very accurate” and that “…the science tells me that 93 percent probability that I have come to the right conclusion.” In 1995, Trimarco, then still in the FBI’s employ, told AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke that the polygraph was 98% accurate. What has changed since then?

The fact of the matter is that polygraphy has not been proven through peer-reviewed research to reliably detect deception at better-than-chance levels of accuracy under field conditions, and the consensus scientific viewpoint is that lie detector testing has no scientific basis at all.

In addition, Trimarco stated without qualification that “in federal court the polygraph is admissible in evidence.” This is misleading. While under the Daubert standard, federal judges may choose to admit polygraph results into evidence, in practice they rarely do so. And the Justice Department also looks on polygraph results with a jaundiced eye:

9-13.300 Polygraphs — Department Policy

The Department opposes all attempts by defense counsel to admit polygraph evidence or to have an examiner appointed by the court to conduct a polygraph test. Government attorneys should refrain from seeking the admission of favorable examinations that may have been conducted during the investigatory stage for the following reasons.

Though certain physiological reactions such as a fast heart beat, muscle contraction, and sweaty palms are believed to be associated with deception attempts, they do not, by themselves, indicate deceit. Anger, fear, anxiety, surprise, shame, embarrassment, and resentment can also produce these same physiological reactions. S. Rep. No. 284, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 3-5 (1988). Moreover, an individual is less likely to produce these physiological reactions if he is assured that the results of the examination will not be disclosed without his approval. Given the present theoretical and practical deficiencies of polygraphs, the government takes the position that polygraph results should not be introduced into evidence at trial….

The transcript of Trimarco’s appearance on The O’Reilly Factor follows:

Baby’s Daddy? Prince Won’t Take Polygraph
Friday, February 23, 2007

This is a partial transcript from The O’Reilly Factor,” February 22, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O’REILLY, HOST: “Back of the Book” segment tonight, one of the most bizarre aspects of the Anna Nicole Smith case is a claim by 63-year-old Frederick Von Anhalt that he is the father of her baby.

Here’s what happened on “The Factor” last week.


O’REILLY: Are you willing to take a lie detector test?

FREDERICK VON ANHALT, ZSA ZSA GABOR’S HUSBAND: Well, I would do that. A lie detector test.

O’REILLY: You would take a lie — because we could probably set that up for you.

VON ANHALT: OK. That would be great. I would do that.


O’REILLY: All right. Now Mr. Anhalt did show up to take the lie detector test yesterday. But when he saw it was a serious situation he ran right over to Larry King.


VON ANHALT: I even was scheduled today to take a lie detector. I would like to do it. But I was so — in such bad shape today I didn’t do it. I will do it tomorrow or the day after.


O’REILLY: No, not on our dime he won’t. We believe the prince is a fraud.

With us now, Jack Trimarco, retired FBI polygraph guy, who was going to administer the test yesterday.

Have you ever seen anything that bizarre? The guy shows up, takes one look at you, all right, and your operation, and bolts.

JACK TRIMARCO, POLYGRAPH EXAMINER: Well, I’ve seen a lot of bizarre things in my career, Bill. This was more on the weird side.

He showed up. First of all, he was scheduled at 9 o’clock in the morning. He, in the eleventh hour, changed that to noon. So we’ve got cameras set up. We’ve got the polygraph set up. We’ve got the rules staked out, and he lets us know he can’t make it till noon.

So at noon he does show up, and we go back and we show him the polygraph suite. I’m explaining some of my background and the fact that he’s in good hands.

O’REILLY: Right.

TRIMARCO: Tell the truth and you’ll pass the test. It’s very, very simple. And he said, “I’ll give you ten minutes.”

And I said, “Well, you know, it’s not really like that.”

O’REILLY: Right.

TRIMARCO: That’s television polygraph. This is a real polygraph that’s going to be on television. But right now we’re just going to talk about validity and my background and let you know you’re in good hands.

And he said, “Ten minutes.”

I said, “Two to three hours. That’s what a real polygraph will take under these circumstances.”

O’REILLY: And whip, he’s out.

TRIMARCO: Well, he said he would be back.

O’REILLY: And he didn’t show.

TRIMARCO: He said he’d be back at 2 o’clock. And that after that time was not a factor.

O’REILLY: Right.

TRIMARCO: His attorney stayed. They asked me questions for 35, 40 minutes. They apparently were satisfied with my credentials.

O’REILLY: Of course, and they tried to talk him into coming back.

TRIMARCO: And they did. They tried. They begged him.

O’REILLY: He won’t come back. Look, this guy’s a fraud. We know he’s a fraud. But let’s — what I want to talk about is — he’s done. His credibility is — is finished.

The technology involved in what you do, the lie detector technology, a lot of people don’t believe in it. No. 1, they believe that you can beat it if you take certain drugs or act a certain way.

And No. 2, it’s not admissible in a court of law. Right?


O’REILLY: So where are we on the lie detector deal? Is it accurate?

TRIMARCO: Well, it’s very accurate, Bill. First and foremost, just like in any science, the accuracy of the polygraph depends on the polygraph examiner.

Now, let’s talk about should it be admissible as evidence. In my opinion, no, it should not be. Because in a state like California, you don’t have to be certified, and you don’t have to…

O’REILLY: Anybody — but you do this for the FBI, right?

TRIMARCO: Right, right.

O’REILLY: So the FBI believed it when you did it.

TRIMARCO: Oh, absolutely.

O’REILLY: So they didn’t have any doubt about it.


O’REILLY: They just couldn’t use it in their prosecutions.

TRIMARCO: Well, they don’t, by policy, use it in prosecutions. The thing we do use, which is the third part of a polygraph, is the post test or the confession. An interrogation ensues. If you fail an FBI polygraph test, you slide into an interrogation.

O’REILLY: Then they can legitimately…

TRIMARCO: And that always goes to court.

O’REILLY: Right. Then they can legitimately interrogate you. They can get a warrant to do that.

TRIMARCO: Sure. And the other thing, Bill, is that in federal court the polygraph is admissible in evidence.

O’REILLY: In federal court.

TRIMARCO: In federal court.

O’REILLY: But not in state court?

TRIMARCO: But in most state courts. New Mexico is an exception, and there are a few.

O’REILLY: When you administer a polygraph — say this nut, Anhalt, showed up to you — and I say nut in an affectionate way — would you be confident 100 percent that you could find out whether he was lying or not?

TRIMARCO: I would be very confident that I would come to the right conclusion, knowing that the science tells me that 93 percent probability that I have come to the right conclusion.

O’REILLY: Ninety-three percent?

TRIMARCO: Ninety-three percent.

O’REILLY: Is it just yes, no questions?

TRIMARCO: It is yes, no questions. In other words…

O’REILLY: That’s all. Can you beat it if you take a drug?

TRIMARCO: Drugs muddy the waters.

O’REILLY: Do you — do you know when somebody’s under the influence when they come in? Can you tell?

TRIMARCO: Well, most times you can tell.

However, if they’re coming in and they have a history of drug abuse or they have a history of trying to muddy those waters, then we can always take a urine specimen.

O’REILLY: Before they do it.

TRIMARCO: And either send it out…

O’REILLY: Right.

TRIMARCO: … or tell them we’re going to send it out. Oftentimes that takes care of it right there.

O’REILLY: Well, I think we took care of the so-called prince.

Mr. Trimarco, thanks for coming in. We appreciate it very much.

TRIMARCO: I’m honored.

“Getting at the Truth of It”

Los Angeles Times staff writer Anna Gorman reports for the Ventura County edition about retired FBI polygrapher Jack Trimarco. Excerpt:

Jack Trimarco makes a living off spotting lies. Lies that make hearts race and blood pressure rise. Lies that reveal the crimes of kidnappers, child molesters and murderers.

The Ventura County polygraph expert also makes his living off of cleverly leading people into making self-incriminating statements–even before the actual polygraph begins.

A retired FBI agent, Trimarco spends his days asking questions, watching the lines of the lie detector machine rise and fall. In an unrelenting search for the truth, he cajoles suspects to confess and convinces witnesses to divulge key information.

“You have to go in there with a gladiator mentality,” said Trimarco, 53, who lives in Camarillo. “It’s a competition, and you have to win.”

Mr. Trimarco is also the “inspector general” of the Department of Energy (DOE) polygraph program. Compare his “gladiator mentality” quip above to the following assertion Trimarco made in a taxpayer-funded DOE polygraph videotape:

JACK TRIMARCO: Polygraph does not have to be a stressful situation.

DIANE ANDERSON: So it’s really not an interrogation? Because I think that that would make most people pretty nervous.

JACK TRIMARCO: It’s not an interrogation at all….